Does Modern Agriculture Need A Green New Deal?

Published on: 13:21PM Feb 11, 2019

In my last post I said: 

"Will we let others fill the gap with two minute sound bites and social media sensationalism?  How do we do a better job communicating and engaging more effectively? This becomes an important question for agriculture going forward, as popular law makers on the rise are more than willing to bite the hand that feeds them and embrace reforms that could totally change 'the system' following recommendations from groups like EAT Lancet and others."

In that post I was referring to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez'  (AOC) economic policy views. I didn't yet have a good idea about issues related to agriculture until this past week when an FAQ was discovered outlining ideas for a Green New Deal which she seems to be advocating (I ran across this first in an article in The Week).

At first some of the language seemed so ridiculous that I thought this must have come from the Onion, but it turns out it seems pretty authentic:

"We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast, but we think we can ramp up renewable manufacturing and power production, retrofit every building in America, build the smart grid, overhaul transportation and agriculture, plant lots of trees and restore our ecosystem to get to net-zero."

Not a lot of details but the language is pretty scary.

First off, if you want to look at emissions related to cattle production it has to be put into perspective. Livestock account for something like 6% of emissions in the U.S., and beef cattle less than 3% and that number keeps getting better with genetic improvement, technological advance and better management. And, just to add another correction, emissions from beef cattle come from eructation in case those folks want to upgrade their 3rd grade vocabulary along with their knowledge of agricultural science. 

Realistically, 'getting rid of all cows' is not going to happen, but with that attitude these folks would likely be of a like mind to those at EAT Lancet and supportive of things like Waters of the US. The ignorance is striking, but not totally surprising. Economist Thomas Sowell warned about social justice crusaders like this in his book The Quest for Cosmic Justice:

“What currently exists as the fruits of centuries of efforts and sacrifices is inferior to what they can produce in their imagination at zero cost, in the comfort and security provided by the society they disdain”

I have my own FAQ about just how green modern agriculture is, and why we don't need a Green New Deal that eliminates (or even reduces) cattle.  While I put this together over 5 years ago it is still relevant today. You can find it on YouTube here: 

I'd like to ask proponents of the Green New Deal that want to radically transform agriculture....Do You Know?

References: Clearing the Air: Livestock's Contribution to Climate ChangeMaurice E. Pitesky*, Kimberly R. Stackhouse and Frank M. MitloehnerAdvances in Agronomy Volume 103, 2009, Pages 1-40